OAKLAND — Progressive journalist Cenk Uygur is seeking the California House seat vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill, raising the prospects of an intra-Democrat clash as the party seeks to preserve its 2018 California gains.
As founder and host of the Young Turks news program, Uygur has built a reputation and following as a prominent liberal media figure — and he burnished his bona fides immediately by rolling out an endorsement from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a rising progressive star who said “Congress needs bold progressives” like Uygur.
Uygur struck an anti-establishment tone in declaring his campaign, saying in a statement that he is running as an alternative to elected officials who have been corrupted by “bribes from corporate interests and lobbyists.”
“We have ridiculously low wages and a horrible health care system because politicians took money from those industries to sell you out. It’s time people had a Representative who actually represented them rather than the greedy, corrupt donor class,” Uygur said.
Uygur’s entry muddles the picture for Democrats in California’s 25th congressional district, one of seven formerly Republican seats that Democrats flipped here in 2018. Hill resigned amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with subordinates (she denied one and admitted to another) and leaks of intimate photos, an abrupt end for a young elected official who had become a protege of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While an open seat could prove tougher for Democrats to defend than one with an incumbent, the 25th congressional district has been trending Democratic, with the party currently wielding a six-point registration edge over Republicans. It proved an attractive target to Democratic hopefuls in 2018, with Hill emerging from a cluster of Democratic contenders vying to flip the district.
Since Hill’s resignation, Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) has been lining up endorsements from elected officials and organized labor. Smith is poised to win the party’s nod at a California Democratic Party convention this weekend, and Hill seemingly endorsed Smith to be her successor on Wednesday.
“Boys, please be gentlemen and step aside. She’s got this,” Hill tweeted.
Several Republicans are looking to recapture the seat, which will figure into the party’s broader efforts to roll back Democratic gains — among them former Rep. Steve Knight, who lost to Hill in 2018.
Right-wing media figures have also teased runs. Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, whose ensnarement by special counsel Robert Mueller has made him a celebrated figure among some conservatives, has launched a committee.
On Wednesday, right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich tweeted “Are you ready for the Cenk / Cerno debates? CA25 is going to be a mother f—ing clash!” Cernovich said in a message to POLITICO that he is seriously considering a run.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine